x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Economy may alter 2015 plan, PM says

Some time frames may need adjusting, Sheikh Mohammed warns, but recovery is in sight.

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai) responds to questions from the public.
HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai) responds to questions from the public.

The global financial crisis has prompted a review of Dubai's 2015 strategic plan, the Prime Minister said yesterday, but he emphasised that many of the emirate's objectives would probably be achieved on schedule. In an internet question and answer session with the general public, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who is also Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said there were already signs that the economy was reviving.

He said a "careful review" had been launched of Dubai's 2015 plan to take into account developments in financial markets and the global economy. Some time frames outlined in the plan, published in February 2007, might need to be adjusted, he said, but many objectives had already been achieved ahead of schedule. He offered no specific details on either. "The symptoms of recovery have started to manifest, and the duration of recovery is expected to be much shorter than that required for other economies," he said.

The country's strong legislative framework, diverse economy, efficient financial system and well-developed infrastructure would aid recovery, he said. Sheikh Mohammed's comments, all made in writing in response to thousands of questions e-mailed by the public, marked the second time this year that he has so interacted via his website. In April, he took questions from journalists. He responded to 56 submissions covering a range of issues from the economy to national identity, offering sometimes forthright answers. He accused the foreign media of spreading "fabricated" news about the country, spoke of the country's demographic future and even discussed his attitudes to family life.

Sheikh Mohammed said the demographic structure committee was finalising timetables for dealing with the imbalance in the country, adding that the global slowdown had had an impact on foreign workers in construction and other industries. Although several ministries were working on strategies to reduce unemployment among Emiratis, Sheikh Mohammed conceded that the country "had not yet achieved an ideal situation for Emiratisation".

"The Government is well aware of this reality and is working on solving the problem in a scientific way, aiming to provide suitable jobs for all citizens in the Government and within the private sectors," he said. Turning to Emirati culture, Sheikh Mohammed insisted that "just a minority" of young UAE nationals had eschewed traditional dress in favour of more western garb, but that this was only a temporary phenomenon.

"Even if such behaviour lasts for some time, it will come to an end," he said, adding that Emirati identity is "deeply rooted". Indeed, the Arab and Islamic culture of the country, the Prime Minister said, had been enjoying a renewal in recent decades. In response to a question suggesting that wasta - the use of family and other connections to secure advantage - was on the rise, Sheikh Mohammed said concerns about the issue were not based on facts.

He insisted that the UAE federal human resources law was helping to tackle the issue by providing grievance procedures to deal with alleged unfairness. "I believe that those who work hard and ensure they are qualified for the demands of the marketplace are the ones who get the jobs," he said. With respect to stateless citizens, Sheikh Mohammed said the Ministry of Interior was working "actively and seriously" and was "closing this case".

"Whoever deserves citizenship of the UAE will get it," he said. Commenting on foreign press reports critical of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed said such journalism was "the price we pay for our great success and for maintaining an open society". "One of the main reasons behind this organised attack against the UAE, and Dubai in particular, is to distort the successful and prominent model of unity set by the UAE," he said.

"To that I would add that some of the negative news has been fabricated under the supervision of certain people in authority. "They have done this in pursuing their personal interest and agendas." The country would, Sheikh Mohammed said, take criticism in stride. He mentioned the English adage that today's newspaper becomes tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrapping. He said much criticism of government services in newspapers was exaggerated and aimed at attracting attention, and he called for this to end.

"I want newspapers to train their staffs to be more accurate and honest in what they publish," he said.